The 44th Annual Mission Inn Run returned with virtual and in-person events in downtown Riverside October 23-24 after being forced to proceed virtually last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual festivities, including the run or walk 5k, 10k and half-marathon began Saturday. In-person races opened as early as 7 a.m. Sunday, drawing approximately 2,700 participants. Registration for each race ended later that same day.
“We actually are seeing an increase in participation in this year’s run,” said Jarod Hoogland, executive director at the Mission Inn Museum since January 2020. “We think people are eager to get out of the house and we think, given the new things we are doing with the race, that we’re going to be able to see higher audiences from years on out.”
On Sunday, runners of all ages started their races at either 5th or 2nd and Market streets, ultimately making their way through Riverside parks and historic neighborhoods and back toward the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa at Mission Inn Avenue and Main Street.
At the finish line, runners were met with live music, their supporters and pride from Notre Dame High School’s cheerleading team. Mission Inn Run volunteers, all sporting matching blue shirts, were present to provide each participant with a medal corresponding to their race — the half-marathoners received medals adorned with 4-inch ringing raincross bells.
Runners were to also be given specially designed 2021 Mission Inn Run T-shirts. However, due to supply chain delays at the Port of Long Beach, the shirts were not readily available. In an email sent early Saturday morning, the museum apologized and agreed to ship the shirts to participants at its expense. Downtown, runners were provided the option to pick up free T-shirts from previous races.
For this year’s shirts, the Mission Inn Museum honored the work of the late legendary Riverside watercolor artist Don O’Neill using his recognizable “Mission Inn Towers” design. Hoogland, who used to work at a museum in Virginia Beach, said “most of my focus has been on revamping the [run’s] design, including the new shirt.”
When the idea to highlight a local artist’s work came about he said he got in touch with Riley O’Neill, Don O’Neill’s grandson, who currently oversees O’Neill Sr.’s artistic work on his grandfather’s online gallery. Images of the shirt design can be found here.
“[Riley] was excited to partner with us to share Don’s work with a greater audience,” Hoogland said.
To take heed of COVID-19 safety measures, the Mission Inn Run saw fewer vendors during Sunday’s events with the majority of booths spread far apart. Hoogland said it made sense “given the current situation.”
“We’re putting up some safety implementations such as hand sanitizers and washing stations,” he said.
Outside the Mission Inn on Main Street was the Clarks Nutrition Health Fair. Vendors included Clarks Nutrition, the California Army National Guard, Notre Dame High School and New York Life. Passersby could also find free food, giveaways and a booth for the runners’ registration. The full list of vendors can be found on the Mission Inn Run website.
In a new partnership with Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center, another vendor, the Mission Inn Foundation (MIF) this year presented the Mission Inn Walk and Wag. For $10 extra, participants could run with their dogs and receive a commemorative banana. Half of every purchase is being donated to the center. The community was also welcome to take pet goodies, including doggie treat pumpkin cups from its booth set-up on 6th Street. A pop-up dog park was also made available.
The MIF and pet adoption center are equally historic to Riverside as both were initially founded to preserve the Mission Inn. Mary S. Roberts, the center’s namesake, is the mother of Duane Roberts who has privately owned the Mission Inn alongside his wife Kelly Roberts since 1992.
“It was a natural partnership for us to come and share what we do independently together given our shared history,” Hoogland said of the partnership.
Since 1977, the Mission Inn Run has operated as a major fundraiser for the MIF and Mission Inn Museum. Hoogland said it’s an event anyone, regardless of age, can participate in to promote healthy living.
“It’s a great way for the entire community to celebrate Riverside health and to support the history of the Mission Inn as the centerpiece of Riverside,” Hoogland said.